Quranic Reflection No. 490. Āyat 26:227 – The Consequences of Oppression
وَسَيَعْلَمُ الَّذِينَ ظَلَمُوا أَيَّ مُنقَلَبٍ يَنقَلِبُونَ
Wasaya‘lamul-ladhīna zalamū ayya munqalibin yanqalibūn
And the wrongdoers will soon know at what final place they will end up
(Sūrat al-Shu‘arā, No 26, Āyat 227)
This verse is a clear warning to those who are guilty of oppression. The word ‘munqalabīn’ is from ‘inqilāb’, to turn around. The wrongdoers will be turned around and will end up at a place they will soon find out about. Their final place which will be the consequence of their deeds will be a place of ignominy and disgrace, both in this world and in the Hereafter. Many tyrants who were strong and apparently powerful in their heyday faced humiliation at the end of their lives, before departing the world to face the punishment of the Hereafter. This is evident in history of the likes of Pharaohs and Yazīd, as well as in the lives of modern tyrants like Saddam who fell with humiliation and infamy.
Tafsīr al-Mīzān says this last verse of Sūrat al-Shu‘arā refers back to the beginning of the Sūra that says: They have already denied [the truth], but soon there will come to them the news of what they have been deriding (Q 26:5). Many verses of this Sūra console and reassure Prophet Muhammad sallal-lāhu ‘alayhi wa-ālihi wasallam and defend him against the accusations of the polytheists and rejecters of faith. The Sūra thus ends with a poignant statement that holds a firm warning for the stubborn enemies of the Holy Prophet (s).
Oppressing others has many consequences, some of them not so apparent. These include:
1. The act of oppressing others deadens the natural inclination in the human being towards virtue and spirituality. The person is no longer able to progress towards perfection.
2. It hardens the heart and removes humane emotions that are part of being a human being. Such a person is not a normal human being anymore who can feel compassion and empathy for others.
3. Oppression affects the entire society, including the oppressor himself. The systems in society stop working as they should and the chaos that results has far reaching results for everyone in society.
4. The pain that is caused by oppression does not move in one direction. It comes back to haunt the oppressor and causes pain to him and his circle.
Amīrul Mu’minīn Imam Ali bin Abi Tālib ‘alayhis-salām talks about the result of oppressing others in his advice to his great companion Mālik al-Ashtar:
Do justice for Allah and do justice towards the people, as against yourself, your near ones and those of your subjects for whom you have a liking. Because if you do not do so you will be oppressive, and when a person oppresses the creatures of Allah then, instead of His creatures, Allah becomes his opponent. And when Allah is the opponent of a person, He tramples his plea; and he will remain in the position of being at war with Allah until he gives it up and repents. Nothing is more inducive of the reversal of Allah’s bounty or for the hastening of His retribution than continuance in oppression because Allah hears the prayer of the oppressed and is on the lookout for the oppressors. (Document No. 53, Nahjul Balāgha).
This verse has been used to foretell the ruin of oppressors of the Ahlul Bayt ‘alayhimus-salām. Tafsīr Nūr al-Thaqalayn narrates from the following Imams who recited this verse in their warning to those who oppressed them:
a. When the enemies tied the head of Imam al-Husayn (a) to a tree, it was heard reciting this verse (quoted from Manāqib Āl Abī Tālib by Muhammad b. Ali b. Shahrāshūb)
b. When recounting his oppressors Imam al-Sādiq (a) said: And those who have oppressed the rights of the family of Muhammad (s) will soon know at what final place they will end up. Thus, has Allah revealed. (quoted from Tafsīr Ali bin Ibrāhīm)
Let this verse remind us that the oppressors of the world will not get away with their oppression. Allah ‘azza wajall has warned them of their end, in this world and in the hereafter. The state of the world just now shows how oppressive countries are facing problems which they would never have foreseen. Their might and power allowed them to freely trample on the rights of many countries around the world. But their deeds are catching up with them. Actions have consequences and those who do wrong will soon see the evil consequences of their deeds. It is a promise from Allah.
Sources: Allāmah Muhammad Husayn Tabātabā’ī, Tafsīr al-Mīzān; Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī (Ed.), Tafsīr-e Namūneh. ‘Abd Ali al-Huwayzī, Tafsīr Nūr al-Thaqalayn; https://hawzah.